Island Stylin'

Underneath It All: Best Bras for Your Bust

By SANDRA WEYANT | Jun 21, 2017
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

Did you know that up to 80 percent of women are wearing the wrong size bra? Marla Wink, owner of Indian Summer, located in Beach Haven’s Bay Village, is determined to change this alarming statistic. As Indian Summer celebrates its 30th year of business on Long Beach Island, Wink reflects on how her career as a seamstress developed into a lifetime of helping women of all ages and sizes find the perfect bras and bathing suits for their bodies.

Wink opened the store back in 1987, and she has been a seamstress her entire life. Her passion for sewing began when she used to make costumes for showgirls in Atlantic City.

“The whole fitting thing came naturally to me – it’s part of what I do every day,” she said. “Because I’ve had my store for so long, I have grown up with a lot of my customers. Their mothers will bring them in when they are 12 years old, and then I see them when they go to college, get married and have babies – it’s a journey with each customer. I’ve had clients all the way up to age 99. I have bras and bathing suits for every age range.”

If you’ve never been fitted before, Wink explains that the process is very quick and painless, but thorough. Normally, she takes the customer into the dressing room and has her remove her shirt, but keep her bra on. She then begins to measure her around the bust using a tape measure (the process remains the same when fitting for cup-sized swimwear).

“At that point, I check to see the shape of the breast. I know what size she is by measuring, but I’ve been doing it so long, I can usually just look and know. I like to measure, though, so the customer knows where these numbers are coming from. I have such a large selection of different types of bras, so I start pulling bras I know will fit her well. I also work with the customer to know exactly what she wants,” Wink said.

As a certified mastectomy fitter, Wink works with women who have had mastectomies, breast augmentations and various other reconstructive surgeries. She is accustomed to offering support and guidance to any woman who may be feeling discouraged or insecure about her body. Indian Summer is a welcoming, safe environment for everyone.

“Occasionally, a young girl will come in and she has never heard of these bigger sizes and all of a sudden I’m putting her in a 30G, and she wants to be a 34B. I very gently have to show her why this new size is working for her body. Sometimes I bring women the sizes they think they are or they would want to be, and then bring them the size I know they are. It’s just a good way of showing how the fit is better for them,” Wink said.

More often than not, during a fitting, women are concerned with the appearance of their backs, and hope to find a bra that eliminates “back fat.” However, Wink explains that a bra has to be a little snugger than how women are used to wearing them.

“The biggest mistake that women are making is that they are wearing the band size a little too big and the cup sizes a little too small. We correct that and go through the process and show them why it’s not working,” she said.

The key to success for each client lies in having enough product in the store to try to reach almost every person. Wink feels that the variety of her products, along with her impeccable customer service, may be the reasons why her boutique stands the test of time.

“When you go into a department store, I feel like all the bras look the same – these big padded things, and that only fits a few people. For example, there are many people who can’t wear underwire for many different reasons. Then, there are other women who want a true push-up. We need to learn to listen to what women actually want and need,” Wink said.

T-shirt Time. Year after year, the one style that appeals to all women, no matter their age, is the T-shirt bra, a classic choice. T-shirt bras can be worn underneath any garment for a seamless, smooth look and usually offer more coverage than other styles.

“Because we live at the beach and we live a very casual lifestyle, most women are looking for a very comfortable bra for everyday wear,” Wink said. “And they’ve found it in the T-shirt bra.”

Piece It All Together. Seamed bras actually are all that they seem to be, giving you a better option to get the most accurate fit for your bust.

“I’m trying to teach women that a seamed bra works wonders in terms of shaping. It’s basically a few different pieces sewn together – three or four main sections – to provide a more malleable shape to conform to the breasts. Seamed bras are not smooth to the touch like a T-shirt bra, but the fit is ideal. In most cases, they are lace styles,” Wink said.

To avoid any unwanted lines showing through your shirt, simply layer a camisole top over your bra and you’re all set.

Ditch the Straps. Strapless bras are perfect for one-shoulder or off-the-shoulder tops and dresses, halter styles and, of course, bridal gowns with sweetheart necklines. They can be very difficult to wear, but Wink has confidence that she can teach any woman how to wear one properly so it flatters her shape.

“We explain everything to you – where the underwire should sit and how snug every part of the bra should be. I work with so many women who are getting married or the mother of the bride. We always ask them to bring their dress in, and we find them the perfect bra and undergarments for their exact dress,” Wink said.

’Lettes You Free. Bralettes are easy, breezy and oh-so fashionable. Wear them alone as a top, or under a summery dress. But, if you’re wearing one as a shirt, make sure the straps are supportive enough to lift your bust. Because bralettes have a relaxed construction and limited support compared to normal bras, these styles are best for women with smaller busts. You can even style your bralette underneath a sheer top for a sexier statement outfit.

Get Wired. If you’re looking for maximum bust support, lift and shaping capabilities, look no farther than an underwire bra. Though anyone can wear them, underwire bras function to control larger, heavier breasts (B cups and above) while enhancing their appearance underneath clothes. Typically, many women express their discomfort with underwire styles, as the metal wires can be painful near the ribcage or underneath the arms, but there have been significant improvements over the years in terms of construction. New materials, such as plastics, are also being used instead of metal for more bendability. Underwire is the perfect choice if you’d like to create a little more cleavage underneath a blouse or dress with a plunging neckline.    

When Wink started her business, there were only 12 bra sizes available to purchase, sizes A-DD, and maybe a DDD, if she was lucky enough to find it. Now, she is proud to offer a broad assortment of bras up to cup size N, with band sizes up to 46. In addition to the plethora of bras available at the shop, you can also find swimsuits and pajama sets. One of the most well-known brands Wink carries is P.J. Salvage, which offers a collection of super-soft pajama separates and sets in a variety of cute prints, like animals and florals, for all ages.

Stop by Indian Summer for a bra fitting (or bathing suit fitting – summer is here!) and make friends with Marla Wink.

Her advice?

“Come in and don’t be afraid of the number or letter. It’s just about the fit. Bra fitting isn’t what it was 20 years ago; it’s much more precise. It’s more about each individual person. So, don’t be afraid of the size, and just enjoy the great fit that keeps you comfortable and secure,” she said.

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